The 1934 Los Angeles Angels

This article was written by Bill Schroeder

This article was published in 1977 Baseball Research Journal

Having followed Pacific Coast League Baseball for more than 40 years, and having watched all of the teams in action over that period of time, I am certain that the 1934 Los Angeles Angels were the most formidable outfit in the history of the circuit. That conclusion is also based on a careful review of the records and history of the League which I published in 1940 and subsequently updated.

The 1934 Los Angeles Angels were managed by Jack Lelivelt, who  first took over the club in mid-season of 1929, having previously managed Milwaukee of the American Association for several seasons. Until his untimely death early in 1941, Lelivelt enjoyed some banner years as a pilot both at Los Angeles and Seattle. Lelivelt’s Angels won PCL pennants in 1933 and 1934, and were first-half season winners in 1930 and 1935. His Seattle Rainiers finished atop the PCL standings in 1939, and won the pennant in 1940-unfortunately his last in Baseball.  It is my belief that Jack Lelivelt would have proven to be a most capable major league manager, had he been granted such an opportunity. He possessed many of the good traits of Walter Alston.

The Los Angeles Angels of 1934, under the able leadership of Lelivelt, far outclassed Hollywood, the runner-up and the rest of the PCL field. It was no contest in the first-half season. The Angels won 66 games and lost but 18. The second-half season was a continuation of the first-71 wins and 32 losses. For the complete campaign, it was 137 victories and 50 setbacks, a percentage of .733-easily the best in league history.

So completely did the Angels dominate play that the PCL directors elected to pit Jack Lelivelt’s crew against a League all-star outfit in a post-season best four out of seven game series. The Angels won this, four games to two. The all-star lineup was composed of players who had excelled in 1934, including a flock of .300-plus batsmen, and pitchers who had won 17 games or more during the season-Leroy Herrman 27, Joe Sullivan 25, Sam Gibson 21, `Dutch’ Lieber 19, Herman Pillette 17.

The Pacific Coast League was a top-flight Triple-A circuit in 1934, as it had been for years. Its players were made up of young men who were aspiring for major league berths, those who had come down from the majors, and those who had been proven campaigners in the minor leagues for some years. The PCL was equal to the International, and American Association in stature.

Some of the cream of the crop PCL players in 1934 were Joe DiMaggio, Louis Almada, Fred Barger, Dan Hafey, Stan Bordagaray, Harry Steinbacker, Earl Sheely, Leroy Anton, Fred Haney, Moose Clabaugh, `Babe’ Dahlgren, Oscar Eckhardt, Smead Jolley, Johnny Bassler, Mike Hunt and Tony Bongiovanni. All batted better than .300.  Eckhardt, who hit .414 the year before, swatted for a mark of .378, Jolley .360, Bassler .351, Hunt .346, Bongiovanni .346, and DiMaggio .341. Joe had hit in a record 61 consecutive games in 1933, but apparently needed more seasoning. The opposition for the Angels was obviously strong.

Los Angeles had won the Pacific Coast League championship in 1933, and by a good margin-114 wins and 73 losses. From that pennant-winning team, the Angels had a complete infield returning in 1934-Jim Oglesby at first, Jimmy Reese at second, Carl Dittmar at short, and Gene Lillard at third. Handy man Mike Gazella also returned.  Sterling outfielders Arnold Statz and Marvin Gudat also returned from the 1933 champions, as did pitchers Fay Thomas, Emmett Nelson and Dick Ward.

The 1934 Angels outfield was really something. Frank Demaree led the PCL in batting with .382, and likewise in RBI with 173, runs scored with 190, and home runs with 45. He also stole 41 bases. Statz batted .324, and Gudat .319. Statz also led in triples and pilfered 61 bases, being second only to Hollywood’s Fred Haney, who swiped 71.

The Angels `34 infield was not only highly sturdy on defense, but its members pounded the ball as well-Oglesby .3 12, Reese .311, Dittmar .294, and Lillard .289, who poked out 27 home runs. It was an “off” season for Gene, because he led the PCL in homers with 43 in 1933, and 56 in 1935.

Gilly Campbell was the regular backstop for the Angels, as he donned the mask in as many as 145 contests, batting for a mark of .305, with 17 home runs. His understudy was Walter Goebel, and the veteran “Truck” Hannah, who made a career of the Coast League, worked behind the bat in 20 games.

The Angels mound staff was imposing. Fay Thomas won 22 consecutive games over the 1933-34 seasons. In 1934 he wound up with a 28-4 mark, the best percentage in Coast history. He was followed by Louis Garland 21-9, Emile Meola 20-5, J. Millard Campbell 19-15, Emmett Nelson 14-5, Dick Ward 13-4, and Roy Henshaw 16-4. All posted E.R.A.s lower than 3.00. Nelson was 2.53, Thomas 2.59, Campbell and Ward 2.63, Garland 2.67, Henshaw 2.75, and Meola 2.90.  Obviously, the pitching staff was lowest in League E.R.A.

The 1934 Angels led the Pacific Coast League in most categories.  At bat they led in runs scored 1,118, hits 1,935, two base hits 326, home runs 127, runs batted in 991, stolen bases 195, and batting average .299. On defense, the Angels were tops with .970.

The year 1934, of course, was in the midst of the Great Depression, so well remembered by those of us who are old-timers. Money was far from plentiful. The purse for each of the Angels’ players — good as they were — from the post-season series with the PCL All-Stars was $2 10. Each of the All-Stars received $122. . . .Times have changed!

But the 1934 Angels were anything but a depression team in the productive sense. They had an ideal combination of pitching, fielding, and hitting, and were a mighty potent ball club. I contend that they would have been a good match for any of the other great teams in minor league history.